QUEBEC CITY, June 7 /CNW Telbec/ - The Québec Ombudsman is concerned
about the consequences of the delay in implementing measures to reinforce the
complaint review system in the health and social services network, one year
after the entry into force of new provisions of the law. An effective
complaint review system is essential to ensuring users' rights are respected.

    The results of the survey

    Progress in implementing the new complaint review system was measured by
a survey conducted in February and March 2007. Two hundred and twenty eight of
the 296 chairpersons of boards of directors of institutions answered the
survey, for a 76% participation rate. The 16 managers of the complaints
assistance and support centres from all regions of Québec, who work with users
of the network every day, also took part.
    The consultation dealt mainly with the appointment of service quality and
complaints commissioners, now attached to the board of directors, and with the
appointment of members of the Monitoring and Quality Committee, which is the
first body responsible for the quality of services to the board of directors.
The methods the commissioners use in exercising their duties, that is, in
examining complaints and reports and promoting the system, was also the
subject of questions.

    The chairpersons of the boards of directors of institutions

    The survey revealed delays in hiring service quality and complaints
commissioners in 45% of institutions. The large majority of commissioners
hired, or 73%, are new to this position, and 60% hold the position part time.
They devote an average of 11 to 12 hours per week to the activity. Half of
commissioners are responsible for three or more facilities, the average being
five to six facilities. Furthermore, 91% of members of Monitoring and Quality
Committee should have been appointed on April 1, 2007.
    The complaint review system is promoted mainly through flyers, posters
and institution Web sites. The large majority of institutions publish the
names and responsibilities of commissioners and medical examiners. Information
on recourse by appeal is included in the acknowledgement of the complaint and
in the information flyer.

    Managers of complaints assistance and support centres

    The managers of complaints assistance and support centres made a number
of comments. They also report delays in hiring commissioners. According to
62.5% of them, these delays and the transition resulted in delays in the
processing of complaints. The failure to replace commissioners during absences
and leaves appears to contribute to longer delays in processing complaints.
For 81% of respondents, the part-time and contract status of the commissioners
and the fact that they are assigned to several facilities at once makes it
impossible for them to fulfill all of their duties. The promotion of the
rights of users and the complaint review system appears to be particularly

    The two groups have a similar reading of the situation

    The two groups agree that delays in hiring commissioners and the
part-time status of most of them resulted in delays in the processing of
complaints in 2006-2007. The limited availability of commissioners and the
number of facilities they are responsible for suggests that they do not have
time to perform all of their duties, and this also compromises the rate of
retention of these employees.
    Further, given the insufficient visibility of the complaint system, it is
not surprising that almost 2,000 citizens reported difficulties to the Québec
Ombudsman in obtaining a response from the first instance. It should be
remembered that the law provides that the commissioner is appointed by the
board of directors of each health and social services institution, and that he
exercise his functions independently from the administration of the
    The commissioner is responsible for receiving and processing, as a first
instance, user complaints and reports, which can be filed by a third person.
The Québec Ombudsman has second instance jurisdiction, in the event that the
situation has not been resolved by the first level.
    Given these facts, The Québec Ombudsman believes that the Ministère de la
Santé et des Services sociaux must immediately take steps to finalize the
implementation of new measures for the complaint review system so that the
system works properly. Three measures should be taken:

    - allow the local and regional service quality and complaints
      commissioners to exercise their duties, that is, processing complaints
      and reports, and promoting users' rights and the complaint review
    - increase the ability of local and regional commissioners to respect the
      45-day time frame for handling complaints;
    - improve and increase information to the public regarding the complaint
      review system, and the rights of users of health and social services.

    The Québec Ombudsman believes that, without these corrective measures, it
will be impossible to ensure equity in accessing the complaints system and
complaint processing, regardless of the region or institution. "The quality
control that the complaint review system is part of is essential to the
ongoing improvement of services to users. The complaints offer valuable
lessons. The delays in implementing the system deprives users of available
recourse and the authorities of opportunities to improve the quality of care
and services to users," Ms. Saint-Germain said.
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    -%RE: 1

For further information:

For further information: Dominique Bouchard, Information Officer, (418)
643-2688, Cell.: (514) 346-2643,
dominique.g.bouchard@protecteurducitoyen.qc.ca; Source: The Québec Ombudsman

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